Courageous Efforts and New Challenges During the Pandemic

Executive Director, Barb Whitney pictured with artwork by Jane Reiter titled Chain of Compassion

During the pandemic, Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center has faced unprecedented circumstances. As a leader, I’ve had to make tough choices about timing, safety, and how to communicate about the global crisis. I’m truly grateful that is not my responsibility alone – our Board President Keith Rouse is a brilliant and gracious partner. In the face of our changing landscape, I’ve been proud that our current Board of Directors, committees, and staff have courageously upheld our organization’s values.

Celebrating Successes – Opportunities Outdoors
Despite serious legal challenges and a statewide shutdown during the planning phase, our team has made ARTpath 2020 a reality, created a new educational program with our bi-weekly Artist Talks, and offered outdoor pop-up art sales. It’s been an incredible joy to attend events and witness our artists’ perspectives – I’ve reveled in congratulating our featured artists, seeing those who are comfortable attending (with social distancing), and making arrangements for those who want to connect on a deeper level at a later time. Special thanks to Education Assistant Julia Sagar for leading efforts on-site! Also, in response to the vandalism of one ARTpath 2020 mural, our Exhibitions and Gallery Sales Director Katrina Daniels is leading efforts to raise funds for additional murals. Rather than allow damage to silence our artist Isiah Lattimore’s voice, we’re seeking additional options for his artistry. Kudos to our team for their perseverance!

NEW Opportunities Online
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve increased opportunities for our Michigan artists to receive compensation via teaching, public speaking, and artwork sales. Although our doors were forced to close in March, we’ve provided over $25,000 in awards, stipends, and commissions since then. Summer Art Camp at Home launched in July, thanks to Education Director Michelle Carlson’s leadership. Last week, our outdoor Pop-Up art sales in conjunction with Downtown Lansing Inc.’s reopening activities garnered over 100 engagements over $1500 in artwork sales! In addition, online artwork sales are flourishing for some. In that vein, we’ve received an award to create an online art sales gallery! While this will require significant staff time to curate and manage, our team is up for the challenge, especially with Kyle Richard taking the role of Operations Manager. We look forward to launching the online sales Gallery this fall for our Michigan artists who choose to participate.

Securing Our Future – A Journey Together
Please know that we’ve taken this opportunity to deepen our relationships with funders and to seek new emergency support. As a measure of pacing, I normally write approximately 1 grant per month; during the first 8 weeks of the pandemic, I wrote approximately one application per week. With the support of the Board of Directors, our team has sought additional support to drive next steps. Since the pandemic began, we’ve received new or increased support from Mariel Foundation, Lansing 5:01, Downtown Lansing, Inc., Payroll Protection Program, Ingham County, and Capital Region Community Foundation among others. As with any projections, we anticipate that only a portion of our efforts come to fruition. We’re continuing our Peckham Art Alliance and are in the final stages of planning with a large-scale project that could turn the tide for our corporate art program. If you are interested in learning more, making an additional gift to support our efforts, or if you have ideas for prospective projects, please be in touch. 

Advocacy Efforts – How You Can Help by Sharing Your Story
Rest assured, we are advocating for the arts and arts education every day. Sometimes special opportunities arise, too – perhaps you’ve noticed that since the pandemic, I’ve presented locally, statewide, and nationally about the arts. I recently served on the CARES Act Funding Panel for the National Endowment for the Arts and supported their distribution of funds to agencies across the country. Quietly, hyper-locally, and in conjunction with the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, I led efforts to maintain City of Lansing funds to support arts organizations this coming year. The Gallery has redoubled opportunities for our stakeholders to amplify our messages about why the arts matter. Our Blog features success stories and support from our champions: artists, interns, donors, and more! Special thanks to Hari Kern, Brian Whitfield, Rich Sneary, Jane Reiter, Barb Hranilovich, Hope Rankin, and Shayla Croteau for sharing their stories this year, and to Robin Miner-Swartz for helping to tell our stories! Stay tuned for more guest blogs to come. If you are interested in participating and sharing your advocacy perspective, I’d love to share details with you. 

Seeking Your Feedback and Taking a Break
I continue to welcome your thoughts! You can reach me via email at, via phone at (517)883-1435, or by making time for a zoom or other face-to-face (socially distanced) conversation. Please know that these efforts have been largely positive and also truly exhausting. I’m planning to be away from the office from August 3 – 7 and taking a bit of respite. Please be in touch in the meantime, and I’ll look forward to catching up with you upon my return. 


Barb Whitney
Executive Director
Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center


  1. Richard OMalley on July 30, 2020 at 8:32 pm

    Great Job, as usual, during such “trying times” foe everyone ! ! ! Art is such an “important element “ of relief, inspiration, hope and “reflections of what we are all going through !” On all levels, especially our emotional and spiritual “ needs” ! Thanks , Barb for keeping the “light” burning ! ! !

  2. Norm Charles on August 3, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    Wow! I continue to be impressed by the great job that Barb and all of the LAG&EC staff are doing to maintain and even enhance programs during these trying times. As a long time supporter and observer of LAG&EC I believe that Barb’s leadership and the good ideas and hard work of staff have made it better than ever. LAG&EC is a gem for the greater Lansing community. Keep up the great work.

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